The FDCPA places limits on the times and places a debt collector may contact you, what they can say to you, and who the debt collector can talk to about your debt. The law also allows you to completely stop a debt collector from communicating with you about your debt.
Stopping Contact – the Cease Letter
If you want a debt collector to stop contacting you, you must do so in writing. But remember, the FDCPA does not apply to original creditors, only debt collectors, so you cannot use a letter to make the original creditor stop contacting you. It’s also important to know the letter does not make the debt go away. The debt collector may still sue you to collect the debt. If that happens, you should contact an attorney. Do not ignore any legal papers telling you that a debt collector is suing you.
A sample letter is provided below, under “Related Resources”. Fill in the blanks with the information about you, the debt collector and the debt. The letter tells the debt collector to quit contacting you.
Optional Information for Your Letter
Sometimes people include a statement in the letter saying they are refusing to pay the debt or cannot pay the debt. You can add this is you like, but if your debt is large, this is unlikely to convince the debt collector to write off the debt.
Sometimes people will tell the debt collector that their income is from sources that are exempt from garnishment (like social security disability) so that the debt collector will write off the debt. However, while it’s true that some income is exempt from garnishment, the Alaska Permanent Fund Dividend is not exempt. Because there are very few Alaskans who do not receive a PFD, we have not included anything about exempt income in the sample letter. If you want more information on exempt income, you can find that in the Alaska Court System’s Judgment Debtor Booklet, Part II, “Exemptions” https://public.courts.alaska.gov/web/forms/docs/civ-511.pdf
Sending the Letter
Before you send your letter, make at least one copy of the letter for yourself and keep it in a safe place. It is best if the letter (request to cease communications) is sent by a time-stamped fax or certified mail, return receipt requested, so that you can prove the debt collector received the letter. The receipt will come back to you. Keep the receipt with your copy of the letter. These may be important later, especially if you have to go to court.
What Happens After the Letter is Sent
Once you give written notice to the debt collector to stop contacting you, the debt collector may only contact you again to either tell you that the debt collection efforts are being terminated, or to tell you that the debt collector is invoking “specific remedies,” for example, the debt collector is going to file a lawsuit or initiate foreclosure proceedings.
If the debt collector contacts you again, other than for these reasons, keep a record of any contacts. You can file a complaint with the Alaska Attorney General’s office Consumer Protection Unit, http://www.law.state.ak.us/department/civil/consumer/cp_complaint.html You can file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission by calling 1-877-382-4357, or online at www.ftc.gov. You can also contact an attorney – the debt collector may have broken the law and you may be able to sue them for damages.
It’s important to know that even if a debt collector violates the FDCPA when trying to collect a debt, the debt does not go away if you owe it. However, the FDCPA gives you the right to dispute the debt. You may want to do this even if you think you might owe the money. The letter you send to the debt collector to dispute the debt will be different than the letter requesting the collector stops contacting you. To find out how to dispute the debt, see the next section in this series, “Verifying/Disputing the Debt”